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'Tatooine' planet found orbiting two stars

March 25, 2013 at 3:41 PM   |   Comments

GRENOBLE, France, March 25 (UPI) -- European astronomers say they've captured the first image of a planet orbiting two suns, like the fictional "Tatooine" of the Star Wars films.

Philippe Delorme of the Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France, and colleagues took the picture of the massive world, dubbed 2MASS0103(AB)b, using a telescope in Chile, NewScientist.com reported

Astronomers said they aren't sure exactly how to classify the object orbiting the binary pair of stars at a distance of about 7.7 billion miles

That's close enough to suggest it may have been born from a disc of dust surrounding them, like a planet forms, but at 12 to 14 times the mass of Jupiter it is near the dividing line between planets and failed stars called brown dwarfs.

"It's either one of the most massive planets you can form or the lowest-mass star you can imagine," Delorme said.

The dividing line between the two, based on studies of bodies' mass, "is more of a working definition, as it is easier to measure the mass of an object than its past formation history," he said.

Confirming its true nature could yield new clues to how stars and planets form, the researchers said.

Topics: Ed Brown
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